June 1995 - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

June 1995

Q. I’ve planted tulips for many years. Last fall, I put about a dozen in a raised bed on the west side of my house. Only two bloomed. The rest had only leaves. What did I do wrong? At the same time, I planted another dozen in front of my house (northwest corner) on regular ground. Every one of them bloomed. The two that bloomed in the bed were the closest to the outside of the bed. Should I dig them up and maybe see if I planted them too deep, or what? – Martha Renschler, Madison, Ind.

A. That’s the best place to start since tulips that are planted too deeply often fail to bloom. The exposure shouldn’t be a problem unless they are a late-blooming cultivar and are heavily shaded by trees. You didn’t mention if the two groups of bulbs were the same. Some “too good to be true” deals feature small, cheap bulbs that lack the size and vigor to bloom. The next time you’re bulb shopping, look for strong, healthy bulbs of decent size. Mail order is trickier since you can’t see what you’re buying. Order from reputable firms, and be skeptical of very low prices.

Q. My peonies are big, good-looking plants but they have no buds. What’s wrong? – Charlie Adkins, Lafayette, Ind.

A. Usually peonies do not bloom because they are planted too deeply. Cover the uppermost buds (eyes) with only 1 to 2 inches of soil. Lift the plants in the fall or spring and reset them at the proper depth. (This is a common malady with iris too. Their rhizomes should be exposed to the sun’s rays.) Yearly additions of mulch or organic matter to garden beds can build up and cause peonies and iris to quit blooming. Other possibilities include excess nitrogen fertilizer, which encourages foliage growth at the expense of flower production, or insufficient sunlight. Peonies require at least a half day of full sun.

Q. My rhubarb plant sends up seed stalks in the summer. What causes it? Should I remove them? – Judy Grossenbacher, Monticello, Ind.

A. The formation of seed stalks, or bolting, is due to a number of factors including genetics, temperature and age. Divide older rhubarb plants. Some older cultivars are more prone to bolting, while newer hybrids such as ‘Valentine’ and ‘Canada Red’ rarely if ever bolt. Stress, such as extreme temperatures or drought, also may be contributors. Dividing older plants will promote more juvenile growth that is less likely to bolt. Frequent harvesting also may help keep the plants rejuvenated.

Plants have a natural tendency to reproduce and will do so at the expense of their roots and general strength. Remove the seed stalks as soon as they form so the plant will remain vigorous and produce well next year.

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